A Dog Day Afternoon.

Every quarter, Smashing Ideas holds Rockstar Awards — a reoccurring acknowledgement of employees that go above and beyond, and exemplify Smashing’s core values: Create with Heart, Paddle Out, Keep it Real, Ride or Die, Raise the Fun Flag, and Stay Curious. The nominees and winners are chosen by fellow employees and celebrated at an all-hands staff meeting. At the end of the calendar year a fresh round of Rockstar Awards are given — this time for the Rockstar(s) of the year.

This past year, Senior UX Designer, Clemente Miller, was one of the winners for his work on one of Smashing’s largest Fortune 50 clients. He won not only for his level of output and client satisfaction, but for being a key facilitator of internal team alignment, engagement, and collaboration.

As soon as Clemente won, he made one thing abundantly clear — his success is primarily based on the success of his team. While the team nominated him, the emphasis on one person didn’t fit with the values he felt made the team, and subsequent project, a success. Each member of his project team, from producers and engagement managers to designers and developers, walk shoulder to shoulder, with each individual contributing equally to the team. This afforded the team to rely on each other, work through challenges, and produce the best product possible.

When the award was announced, the “we” mentality was immediate. Clemente wanted to acknowledge the team that helped him, and the project, be a success. The concept of the reward shifted from the individual to the team. Clemente wanted a shared experience that brought acknowledgement back to the team at large by facilitating a moment of pause and celebration in what can be a busy work environment.

What better way to celebrate your team than with a surprise visit from 4 fluff-balls…rescue puppies brought in from Seattle-based non-profit BravePup. An important meeting was called for the team under the guise of rather serious retrospective. Upon entering the conference room, the team was greeted by the little yelps and squeals from Jax, Pickles, Kiara, and Griffey.

Why puppies? Clemente sought an experience that would create a positive psychological effect on the team. As animals trigger high levels of dopamine and serotonin, the experience, at its core, was a moment of collective happiness. For a brief hour, project work stopped, stress ceased, and the day slowed down. The only ask in return was that the team pay it forward at some moment in the future.

The puppy love didn’t end with the team. After the core project team had their puppy fill, the entire studio was invited for puppy play.

With what began as a singular recognition of hard work became a shared experience for the entire company that was a shining example of the values that make Smashing Ideas so smashing. The fun flag was raised through an experience that was created with heart. Why? Because blazing new trails is better as a team.

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Originally published at smashingideas.com on August 22, 2016.

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